Your Student Accommodation Questions Answered

Jan 14, 2010, 11:34 ET from unite-students

SHEFFIELD, England, January 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether you are getting ready to start university in the autumn, planning to move on from halls or preparing for your final year, searching for a place to live is an exciting but potentially stressful time.

Considering all the various options whilst trying to avoid the potential pitfalls of bad accommodation can be tricky, so it's important to arm yourself with as much information as possible to help you make the right choice.

To help you get ahead of the game and find your perfect place, Simon Jones, North East Operations Director for UNITE ( http://www.unite-students.com/student-accommodation-sheffield) , the UK's leading provider of student accommodation, answers some of the most commonly asked questions.

I've never looked for somewhere to live before, what's the first thing I should do?

A good place to start your search for student accommodation is at your university's Accommodation Office which will have details of most of the options that are available. There are also a number of online sites which specialise in student accommodation.

There are a wide range of options, from university halls and traditional student housing to purpose built, managed accommodation provided by companies such as UNITE which offer a choice of room types and prices (http://www.unite-students.com/).

Take time to think about what you want out of your living experience. If it's the opportunity to meet lots of new people then you could consider halls, or privately managed accommodation, where you will be living in a building with other students. Some accommodation providers have studio flats which enable you to have your own space, but with the option to make use of communal areas.

Will I have to sign a contract?

Yes, all reputable landlords will want to you to sign a tenancy agreement. This ensures that both you and your landlord agree on important terms such as rent and length of tenancy.

Make sure that you read the agreement thoroughly and understand the terms. If you have any concerns, you could ask your parents or university Accommodation Office to check through before you sign on the dotted line.

Will I have to pay rent during the holiday periods?

Most tenancy agreements are for a fixed number of weeks so you will usually have to pay for your room even when you are not using it. Tenancy lengths and start dates can vary, so before signing a tenancy agreement you should get clarification from your accommodation provider on what the start date is for the tenancy and how many weeks it's for.

UNITE's properties in Sheffield ( http://www.unite-students.com/student-accommodation-sheffield) offer a 43 week tenancies to cover term time with the option of extending your stay over the summer for a reduced rate.

How do I ensure that I get my deposit back?

Ask to see the property before you move in. Make sure that the landlord is aware of any existing damage. You should also be given an inventory, check this thoroughly.

Deposits paid for rental properties are protected under a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The scheme is designed to stop landlords from wrongly withholding all or part of your deposit and help resolve any disputes.

What should I budget for when I move into student accommodation?

Make sure you include the cost of all bills when working out how much you can afford to pay in rent. You will need to consider energy bills, water rates, internet connection, the cost of a landline, contents insurance and a TV license.

Some private accommodation providers include the cost of bills in your rent. For example, room prices at UNITE are inclusive of utility bills, internet access and contents insurance. Check exactly what you need to pay for upfront so there are no surprises later down the line.

Will I have to pay council tax?

The vast majority of students are entitled to exemption on council tax, but it depends on your individual circumstances. For example if you live with non students, the household will have to pay council tax but you'll be eligible for a discount.

For more information you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or visit their website, where they provide detailed information. Your university should also be able to provide you advice on this.

You will need to register with your local authority and if you are entitled to a discount they may ask you to provide proof of your student status. Again, your university should be able to help by providing the necessary documentation

How do I find people to live with?

Living in shared accommodation can be a great experience and an opportunity to make friends for life. Some accommodation providers such as UNITE offer a list of preferences when students make a booking and they will do their best to match them - this might be living in an all male or all female flat or living with vegetarians.

If you are planning to live with friends, think carefully about the qualities that you value in a housemate. It helps to pick people with similar interests, or someone from your course, that way you always have some common ground.

Many of UNITE's properties feature purpose built studios - an ideal option if you like your own space but also want to be close to other students and make new friends.

I'm just doing a short course and don't need accommodation for the whole year, what options do I have?

Check with your university Accommodation Office to find which providers offer short term accommodation, such as UNITE. They may also be able to put you in contact with other students who are looking for a similar length of stay. UNITE offers short term accommodation at Central Quay and Devonshire Courtyard, which are both within walking distance of Sheffield city centre.

UNITE offers a range of living options in Edinburgh and has a wide range of studio apartments and en-suite rooms where you can live on your own or share with other students.

The Anvil in Sheffield ( http://www.unite-students.com/student-accommodation/sheffield/the-anvil) is one of the excellent properties available from UNITE. It's in a great location only minutes away from Sheffield Hallam University and the student union. The University of Sheffield is also within 10 minutes walk as is the city centre - so everything is pretty much on your doorstep.

Students can browse, arrange a viewing and book a room online by visiting http://www.unite-students.com or find out more by calling +44-0800-783-4213.

UNITE is a founder member of the ANUK Code of Standards for Larger Developments. The Code aims to facilitate good relationships between property owners, managers and tenants.

SOURCE unite-students